I first met these words in Jim Collin’s ‘Great by Choice’ book. According to Jim, it’s one of the key traits of a great leader. Being the other two as fanatic discipline and empirical creativity.
These particular words struck me personally, and have been in and out of my mind lately. It’s probably because, i’m in the midst of clarifying a lot of uncertainties.
According to Jim, productive paranoia, is someone who obsessed about all the kinds of outcomes. Who prepares for all the what-ifs. And someone who obsessed about not being prepared enough. In relation to this, amidst uncertainties, i find myself in productive paranoia.
For me, i define it as being prepared, and always moving forward. When things are not clear, i try to identify a few possible outcomes, and either move towards them or avoid them. I make sure, i move towards only a few, since moving towards more than i can handle, is counter-productive.
A related set of words, that i always relate to productive paranoia, is fire and motion, which i read from an article by Joel Spolsky. The idea, is that i have to keep on moving forward and firing constantly towards my goal.
A similar set of words, that’s common in running is, one foot in front of the other. When i am in a bonk, or hitting a deep low, the only remedy is to keep on moving forward. The bonk will pass, but if i stop, i’m not moving forward towards my goal.
Why i’m talking about this? When building a new product, or going into a new market, or leading a company into new levels, there are always uncertainties. Lots of it. I don’t think any leader can claim that he/she has figured out everything what lies ahead.
But what i found, and also learned personally, is that what i can do amidst all the uncertainties, is to always move forward, achieve clarity about my purpose and my goals, and prepare for as many possible outcomes as possible.
Being prepared, can also be viewed, along a similar strategy about achieving success. Amidst all uncertainties, don’t plan for success, instead, plan to eliminate as many fail factors as possible; prepare by removing as many obstacles as possible.
I find some comfort in these thoughts in uncertain times, since it gives me confidence, that everything will be right. All i have to do, is to keep on preparing and moving forward. Fire and motion. One foot in front of the other.